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Illinois Attorney General, Winnebago County file lawsuit over Chemtool fire

The lawsuit, which was filed in Winnebago County Circuit Court on Friday, alleges Chemtool’s actions pose a “substantial danger to the public’s health and welfare and the environment.”
Two Rockton residents file civil lawsuits against Chemtool
Two Rockton residents file civil lawsuits against Chemtool(WIFR)
Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 4:01 PM CDT
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WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) - Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley filed a lawsuit against Chemtool Inc. over the June 14 massive fire at the company’s Rockton plant, claiming the fire and efforts to control it sent smoke, particulate matter and unknown quantities of other contaminants into the environment.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Winnebago County Circuit Court on Friday, alleges Chemtool’s actions pose a “substantial danger to the public’s health and welfare and the environment.” It also claims the actions caused air and water pollution hazards and unauthorized waste disposal. The lawsuit also claims waste, such as debris, ash and runoff from the fire and firefighting efforts, was not properly disposed of and posed potential environmental hazards.

The plaintiffs want Chemtool to cover the costs that Winnebago County and the state incurred in responding and reacting to the incident. They also want Chemtool to assess the extent of the contamination and take immediate corrective actions to address the release of pollutants to the air, water and land. The lawsuit also asks that Chemtool be compelled to take preventative actions to avoid the future release of pollutants and pay civil penalties.

“The Chemtool fire rattled the community, displaced residents, and took the combined resources and efforts of several fire departments to get under control. Although the flames have been extinguished, the hazard posed to the public and the environment continues, and Chemtool owes the community more information,” Raoul said. “My office, in collaboration with the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s office will ensure that Chemtool is held responsible for evaluating the extent of the contamination and thoroughly remediating the damage.”

“I am grateful for the thorough and swift investigation by the Illinois EPA and Attorney General Kwame Raoul,” Hanley said. “I look forward to working with the Attorney General to protect Winnebago County’s environment and the health of its citizens.”

On June 14, fire engulfed Chemtool’s Rockton facility, causing several explosions and sending thick, black smoke into the air. Residents and businesses within a mile of the plant were evacuated, and residents within three miles of the facility were encouraged to wear masks when outside.

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